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My second point is that when family elders expose their youth to drugs, it’s called intergenerational drug abuse.

“She wasn’t the one and the same anymore,” said Raymond Vaughn, 34, a Baltimore college student whose mother started using drugs when he was 12. He told his story this summer at a conference sponsored by the Center for Urban Families in Baltimore and Mario’s Do Right Foundation.

As Mr. Vaughn’s mother’s substance use evolved (he believes she smoked pot in the 1970s as the “gateway” to cocaine and heroin), and with his father already deceased, Mr. Vaughn anchored his life to his grandmother. But without strong parents in his life, he still “ran the streets” and ended up in jail for a while. He also became an unwed father.

It was Mr. Vaughn’s son who helped him see beyond a world where moms get high and people hustle for a living. “I had a son to think about,” he said. “He wanted to go to work with me.”

Today, Mr. Vaughn says his mom is “clean as a whistle.” His advice to other adult children of drug users is “talk about it” and realize “it’s not a demon you can fight by yourself.”

As for graybeard druggies — can they change their ways?

Yes, Mr. Walters says, absolutely.

“If you think there aren’t miracles today, go to a treatment center,” he said.

Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at